Archive for the ‘English - general issues’ Category

The unspoken language

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017
Hand gestures and body language form an integral part of interaction between people. EPA

WHETHER we go abroad for a much-deserved holiday or long-term relocation, we are generally aware of the impending difficulties of communication.

Unfortunately, we often concentrate on verbal interaction, forgetting about the other non-verbal variety.

One of the most frequent questions I have been asked about everyday life in Malaysia was: “How do you communicate there? Did you have to learn the language?”

The short answer has always been “No, most everybody speaks better English than I will ever master Malay”.

When I am in a talkative mood, I will add a little anecdote about my forays into language learning. But, that is stuff for a different story.

However, verbal communication is only half the ticket, as I realised soon after setting foot in this part of the world.

Hand gestures and body language form an integral part of interaction between the people.

While we are very much aware of our shortcomings regarding foreign language, we forget that we unintentionally offend our counterparts on a different level.

It is interesting to note that, while locals are tolerant regarding our lack of verbal skills, they are often caught on the wrong foot in regard to our use of gestures or our omission thereof.

Body language is commonly regarded as a supplement to verbal communication, when in fact, it is the essence of a culture, without which the spoken word could not have evolved.

When we travel to foreign shores, we may well leave our languages behind, but we always carry our cultural baggage with us and, therefore, often send mixed messages to those around us.

My mother, who managed to live and function in foreign language territory for 50 years without even trying to acquire the local prose, used to say “jeux de mains, jeux de vilain”, which loosely translates to “hand games, naughty games”.

Truer words have seldom been spoken, as it happens. Some gestures convey universal messages; an outstretched hand means welcome, a held up one says stop, and a waving palm sends you on your way with a fond goodbye.

And yet, other non-verbal communication can be fertile ground for misunderstandings; even going as far as to start wars.

In the West, we point at things, if not at people, with our forefinger, it’s called pointer for a reason. A definite no-go in Malaysia, where we learn to point out directions with our — preferably not outstretched — thumb; a small cultural difference with potentially far-reaching consequences.

While hitting your right fist into your cupped left hand is a sign of encouragement and signifies a nonchalant “let’s go” or “let’s do this” in large parts of the Western hemisphere, it is considered rude, if not shocking, here.

Similarly, many foreigners will hide their hands in their pockets or cross their arms in front of their chest as as a sign of feeling insecure, but it is perceived as assertively aggressive in many Asian societies.

The traditional Malay greeting of salam is one of my personal favourite salutations in the world, as you bring your hand to your chest indicating that you hold your counterpart in your heart.

The fact that the preluding handshake is not a firm grip is interpreted as a weak “cold fish” gesture in many Western countries, however.

Perhaps the most commonly misunderstood signal is the laugh, which in Asia can mean anything from happiness to surprise, anger, shock or embarrassment. To Westerners, a laugh means merriment, nothing more, nothing less.

Did you know that the very rude thumb protruding between the first two fingers of a clenched fist is a playful gesture used by French adults towards children, pretending to have stolen their nose?

Flick your throat with your forefinger to swat at a mosquito and your Russian acquaintance will immediately proceed into the next bar to offer you a drink.

And, while the newly-erupted culture of selfies often depicts (mainly young Japanese) girls making a victory sign en lieu of a socially not-acceptable smile, it is misunderstood as a lewd gesture symbolising female genitals in Southern Europe.

The list of potential pitfalls goes on and on, and I haven’t even touched on the subjects of eye contact, glances, breathing patterns and personal space.

When we travel to foreign countries, we all bother to enquire about the local language. Some of us will read up on food and local dressing etiquette, and a few will delve into the subject of culture and history.

By FANNY BUCHELI-ROTTER.

Read more  @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2017/07/259618/unspoken-language

Fikirlah: ‘Old-School’ Teachers Can Help Improve English

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

MELAKA (Bernama) — In 2016, the passing rate for the English paper in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) was at 79.4 percent. This achievement motivated the Education Ministry to push the bar even higher, setting the passing rate at 81 percent by 2020.

However, the reality is that achieving the target would require a lot of effort by all parties concerned. This would include introducing new language teaching and learning methods and a revamped English syllabus for schools.

I find that the most important measure to take to realise such ambition is to have more English teachers like those of yesteryears. This is in addition to parents providing wholehearted support for children in learning the language.

When I think of the quality of English teachers back then, my mind goes to the late Lee Siew San. She taught Malaysia’s distinguished cartoonist Datuk Mohd Nor Khalid, better known as Lat, and inspired him to create the iconic character of Mrs Hew in his Kampung Boy series.

Lat recognised that beneath Lee’s stern exterior, she had a heart of gold. She relentlessly taught Lat and his friends in the village how to read, write and speak in English, eventually helping them go far in life.

Just imagine if all of us had a ‘Mrs Hew’ of our own during our schooling years; that one teacher who worked relentlessly to get English into our hearts, to help us master at the very least the basic command of the language.

These teachers usually employ old-school methods in teaching English, stern and often with a cane in their hands. However, their austere manner often belied a heart so gracious that no matter what you throw at them, they will always be there for you to not only help you master English but make you a better person.

I came to know of my own ‘Mrs Hew’ back in 1991 when I started Form One. My English teacher then was Mr Choy Kim Chai who also happened to be the Kemahiran Hidup teacher.

Since young I had been exposed to English by my father who spoke the language fluently. He used to buy us English books and comics, one of which was Lat’s Kampung Boy.

However, Mersing, the place where I grew up, was just a small fishing town. The Malays there hardly spoke English.

With only a few friends who could converse in English, I did not have much opportunity to improve my command of the language. Mr Choy himself pointed out that to improve my proficiency in the language, I had to practice by speaking and writing. However, the circumstances made it difficult for me to do so.

My eagerness to learn English caused me to be mocked, shunned at and laughed at by my friends back then who thought I wanted to be a Mat Salleh (Englishman). Mr Choy, however, kept encouraging me to speak the language and told me to ignore what others said.

I have fond memories of Mr Choy. He was the one who encouraged me to take part in English competitions, from spelling bees to essay-writing, most of which I did miserably due to my terrible grammar. However, Mr Choy kept telling me to push ahead and not give up on improving my English.

He once joked that if I wanted to gain more knowledge, I should learn English, but if I wanted to woo the girls, I should learn French instead. I have admittedly been caned by Mr Choy in the quest to improve my proficiency of the language, but it was not something that I remember in bitterness.

I owe a lot to Mr Choy for the level of English that I can communicate with today. My improved command of the language has given me an edge in many areas. While I was in university, where reference books tended to be in English, my ability to understand the language was a great advantage. Now, as a journalist, it enabled me to conduct interviews in the language with great confidence.

Mrs Hew and Mr Choy are just two examples of how English teachers can change our lives by inspiring us to master the language. However, nowadays, how many parents lambast teachers over their children’s poor command of English?

I believe there are still many teachers like Mrs Hew and Mr Choy.

Today, my 12-year old daughter has a decent command of English, thanks to her English teachers. The same teachers also instilled in her passion in writing. I, too, have been encouraging her to speak and write in the language and am happy to note that she has taken to writing as I did.

by Fadzli Ramli.

BERNAMA.

Read more @ http://education.bernama.com/index.php?sid=news_content&id=1360130

More effort needed for English usage beyond classroom.

Friday, April 14th, 2017

PUTRAJAYA: Students must be given more opportunities to use English beyond the classroom.

Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kama­la­nathan said while there are sufficient English sessions in school and teachers work hard to ensure the language is taught, many students do not have the opportunity to converse in English at home.

He said competitions such as the Sunway-Oxbridge Essay Competition will help students to think, speak and write in English.

“It is in line with the second shift of the Malaysia Education Blueprint which states that every student has to be proficient in two languages.

“I hope this year, there will be more schools from rural areas that will participate as it is a good platform for them to have more exposure in English and speak the language,” he said when briefing reporters about the competition.

The competition is organised by the Sunway Group, the Oxford & Cambridge Society Malay­sia, the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, Sunway University and Monash University Malaysia.

Kamalanathan said the competition, which is being organised for the fourth year, aims to improve the proficiency of English among students across the country.

He said students are invited to submit their essays on “Climate Action”.

Kamalanathan commended the organisers for their initiative, saying that the theme is relevant and requires participants to do some research and homework.

“A student needs to be aware and know how important climate and sustainable deve­lopment is. This subject is very important.

by SANDHYA MENON
Read more @ http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/04/14/more-effort-needed-for-english-usage-beyond-classroom/#gYK4q2dlV0VIuAQk.99

University to conduct intensive English proficiency programme.

Saturday, April 8th, 2017
The programme covers skills in listening, reading, writing and speaking English.

The programme covers skills in listening, reading, writing and speaking English.

MIRI: Those who wish to improve their command of the English language can undergo a 10-week Intensive English Programme (IEP) at Curtin University, Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) starting April 11.

Organised by the university’s Culture and Language Studies Department, the programme covers skills in listening, reading, writing, speaking and grammar.

It is designed not only to improve students’ English proficiency for academic purposes, but also suitable for those looking to improve their business communications.

The 20-hour weekly programme from Monday to Friday will end by June 14.

Curtin Malaysia IEP lecturer David Patenaude said students would practise their language skills in activities both in and outside the classroom.

“The programme offers both an IELTS (international English language testing system) preparation programme for students who wish to pursue further academic plans as well as a general English programme for those more interested in simply improving their English communication skills,” said Patenaude.

Students will be placed at the appropriate IEP level based on their placement test results.


Read more @
http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/community/2017/04/05/university-to-conduct-intensive-english-proficiency-programme/#qBOblYYlB7FAbMVS.99

Poor English skills a major complaint in every industry

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

GEORGE TOWN: Employers have voiced their concerns over the poor command of English among new graduates entering the job market.

Star Media Group Berhad editor-in-chief Datuk Leanne Goh (pic) said it was no secret that English proficiency was one of the vital skills lacking among Malaysian graduates.

“We see that is the major complaint in every industry,” she said in her speech during the opening of the Star Education Fair 2017 at SPICE Arena on Saturday.

Quoting Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman Jack Ma, Goh said there is a need for people to think creatively, to be innovative and to really imagine.

“These are the traits that we need to empower our kids with,” Goh said.

She then presented testimonials from past scholarship recipients of the Star Education Fund.

“We have given away RM108.3mil to 3,582 scholarship recipients since the fund was established 1994.

“This year, we have 29 partners-in-education which pledged a total of 272 scholarships valued at RM13mil.

“From this, Penangites will receive 53 scholarships worth over RM1mil from five of our partners-in-education,” she said.

She thanked the five institutions from the northern region – Equator College, KDU Penang University College, Sentral College Penang, MSU College Penang and Sunway College Ipoh – for their pledge to contribute to the Star Education Fund.

Goh then welcomed three new partners-in-education namely Quest International University Perak, Oriental Nilam College of Nursing and Health Sciences and Malaysian Institute of Art this year. (2017)

by CHRISTOPHER TAN
Read more @ http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/03/25/poor-english-skills-a-major-complaint-in-every-industry/#v24T4xQ9vTJ6ro4V.99

New English Language Learning Method To Be Introduced – Mahdzir

Monday, March 20th, 2017

PUTRAJAYA, March 20 (Bernama) — A new English Language teaching and learning method via online, the Cambridge Accessible Tests (CATs), will be introduced with the focus on rural students.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said this pioneer programme would start by the year-end involving about 40 rural primary and secondary schools and expected to be implemented fully in one or two years.

He said the programme was developed with the cooperation of Cambridge Malaysia Education and Development Trust (CMEDT), and a working committee headed by Education director-general Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamed Yusof would be formed to monitor the implementation of CATs.

“I think this is a very good programme for students, especially those in the rural areas who are less exposed to the English language,” he told a press conference after an explanation session on the English Language Education Implementation Strategy Towards Students’ Proficiency, here, today.

Also present were CMEDT executive chairman Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid and Education Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Alias Ahmad.

Mahdzir said the CATs design was developed by CMEDT and ready for use. In fact, he added, English Language teachers had been trained at the English Language Training Centre (ELTC), Education Ministry, to implement the programme.

Meanwhile, ELTC director Dr Mohamed Abu Bakar said CATs functioned as an additional English Language teaching and learning method involving nine levels of mastery at the primary and secondary school levels.

“Students’ English Language proficiency will be tested from one level to another and if they can master all the nine levels, that means their proficiency is very good.

“When students have completed the nine levels of learning in primary school, they will start again from the first level in secondary school,” he said.

BERNAMA.

Read more @ http://education.bernama.com/index.php?sid=news_content&id=1339508

‘English mastery vital to the nation’

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Graduates and school leavers have been told that they must have a strong command of the English language to boost their employability in the private sector.

About 80% of surveyed Malaysian employers rated English proficiency as equal to or more important than the knowledge or skills of potential employees, said Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon at Star Media Group’s Power Talks business series.

The chairman of Royal Selangor International also said that a 2011 survey by Prestariang Systems revealed that 93.3% of respondents from the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry viewed a good grasp of English as very important.

“As long as poor English proficiency remains unaddressed, graduate employability will continue to be worrying.

“If you are not proficient in English, you will be handicapped when seeking career advancement,” said Yong, adding that mastery of the language was crucial in a world that was rapidly embracing globalisation.

In the Power Talks session yesterday, attended by about 200 people, Yong captivated the audience with his experience helming Royal Selan­gor, previously known as Selangor Pewter.

Making his point: Yong sharing his views on English language proficiency at the Power Talks event at Menara Star in Petaling Jaya.

Making his point: Yong sharing his views on English language proficiency at the Power Talks event at Menara Star in Petaling Jaya.

The audience was enthralled by his one-hour talk and the majority of their questions was centred on the state of English proficiency in Malaysia.

Being in the inner circle of the group responsible for introducing the Dual Language Programme (DLP) in Malaysian schools, Yong fielded questions on the subject with ease.

It has been welcomed by many, but the DLP has also been a bone of contention in the domain of Malaysian education.

Its critics have argued that the DLP will result in the deterioration of Bahasa Melayu as the national language.

Chinese education group Dong Zong has also rejected the programme, branding it a bane to the teaching of mother tongue lan­­guages.

Yong said the DLP would only be implemented in schools that have met prerequisites set by the Education Ministry.

He also said that the current state of English proficiency among SPM leavers was worrying.

In concluding his talk, Yong said that English proficiency was a key catalyst to the nation’s development, since Malaysia was an export-reliant economy.

“Everybody will be impacted by the education system, regardless of who you are.

by GANESHWARAN KANA
Read more @ http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/03/05/english-mastery-vital-to-the-nation-proficiency-in-the-language-a-catalyst-for-development-says-roya/#wcCoFxA5WHSCpySX.99

Strengthening usage of English

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

UNIVERSITI Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) and the Cambridge Malaysian Education And Development Trust (CMEDT) will work to strengthen the usage of English Language in the country.

UPSI and CMEDT, an organisation aiming to advance education in Commonwealth countries, signed a Letter of Intent to launch a pilot project, Cambridge Accessible Tests (CATs), with UPSI.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said the joint effort by UPSI and CMEDT marks the beginning of the journey to enhance students’ acquisition of English.

“It is also part of the ministry’s effort to redesign higher education as well as to improve quality and the standards of English among our graduates,” he said at the launching ceremony last Monday.

Idris said the deployment of CATs – an online learning platform which is calibrated with the Common European Framework of Reference – would address the “urgent need” for higher learning institutions to develop “self-directed graduates” who are proficient in English.

“CATs will enable students to learn and improve their proficiency in English at their own pace, promoting self-directed learning.

“This would make students not only recipients of knowledge, but also co-curators of knowledge,” he said.

Idris says the joint effort marks the beginning of the journey to enhance students’ use of English.

Idris says the joint effort marks the beginning of the journey to enhance students’ use of English.

The enrichment programme will be carried out from the September intake this year, in addition to the existing university English courses in UPSI. Studies on its effectiveness will be conducted later.

CMEDT executive chairman Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid said the pilot project will cover four principal areas of English – speaking, reading, writing and listening.

“CATs was specially developed and formulated in a manner where it is in full synergy with the teaching and learning process to ease students’ mastery of English accuracy and fluency,” he said.

by LEE CHONGHUI
Read more @ http://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2017/02/12/strengthening-usage-of-english/#y1Qov3uZ8refcdus.99

Strengthening usage of English

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

UNIVERSITI Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) and the Cambridge Malaysian Education And Development Trust (CMEDT) will work to strengthen the usage of English Language in the country.

UPSI and CMEDT, an organisation aiming to advance education in Commonwealth countries, signed a Letter of Intent to launch a pilot project, Cambridge Accessible Tests (CATs), with UPSI.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said the joint effort by UPSI and CMEDT marks the beginning of the journey to enhance students’ acquisition of English.

“It is also part of the ministry’s effort to redesign higher education as well as to improve quality and the standards of English among our graduates,” he said at the launching ceremony last Monday.

Idris said the deployment of CATs – an online learning platform which is calibrated with the Common European Framework of Reference – would address the “urgent need” for higher learning institutions to develop “self-directed graduates” who are proficient in English.

“CATs will enable students to learn and improve their proficiency in English at their own pace, promoting self-directed learning.

“This would make students not only recipients of knowledge, but also co-curators of knowledge,” he said.

Idris says the joint effort marks the beginning of the journey to enhance students’ use of English.

Idris says the joint effort marks the beginning of the journey to enhance students’ use of English.

The enrichment programme will be carried out from the September intake this year, in addition to the existing university English courses in UPSI. Studies on its effectiveness will be conducted later.

CMEDT executive chairman Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid said the pilot project will cover four principal areas of English – speaking, reading, writing and listening.

“CATs was specially developed and formulated in a manner where it is in full synergy with the teaching and learning process to ease students’ mastery of English accuracy and fluency,” he said.

UPSI vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Zakaria Kasa said CATs is a chance for students to “soar upwards” as it is an additional platform which helps them to “conquer” their command of the language.

by LEE CHONGHUI
Read more @ http://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2017/02/12/strengthening-usage-of-english/#8iVxmLSm4XEfr4wl.99

Go the extra mile to teach English, teachers urged

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Teachers have been urged to go the extra mile to boost the level of English proficiency among students.

“We should not be too parochial. We have to accept that English is the international language and it is vital to be in the forefront at the international stage,” said National Parent-Teacher Associations Colla­bo­­rative Council president Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Ali Hasan.

He called for a quantum leap to help students improve their language skills.

“Necessary steps have to be taken to make sure that we are on par with other countries, especially Singapore,” he said.

Dr Mohamad Ali said that firstly, the teachers themselves should be proficient to teach English.

“There is not enough emphasis on the teachers. In fact, we are trying our best to get teachers from other countries to volunteer to teach English here. These are only temporary measures.

“We must get our priorities right. We need specialised English and literature teachers who can cope with the coaching, delivering and the speaking of English language in schools,” Dr Mohamad Ali said.

He added that Malaysia was still emphasising on “exam-oriented language”.

“Maybe programmes such as Eng­lish communication skills should be introduced on weekends or during school holidays,” he said.

The National Union of the Tea­ching Profession president Kamaro­zaman Abd Razak stressed the need for more teachers with the Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) qualification.

Many teachers only took up the language as a minor in their tertiary education, he said.

“Besides, the Education Ministry has too many programmes sometimes.

“The teachers have to be away for a certain period for courses and other activities and this will disrupt the teaching process in schools.

“On the part of students, some of them don’t see how English will benefit them. We see such pro­blems at schools in the rural areas as compared to cities and urban areas,” Kamarozaman said.

He urged teachers to discuss with parents on ways to deal with this.

Other steps could include orga­nising English-oriented activities such as public speaking or quizzes.

“Schools can also hold their weekly assemblies, sports day, speech day or any other activities in English,” he said.

“This will force the students to converse in English and they will be able to pick it up from there.”

On Jan 1, Bernama reported that Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman hoped all state assemblymen would take initiatives to improve the command of English among primary school children in their constituencies.

This is important to ensure the pupils would perform better in the UPSR this year after the state recorded a below-par performance in 2016.

“The UPSR format changed last year and it was quite difficult for teachers and students, indirectly causing a deterioration in UPSR results for English and Science subjects.

by  ROYCE TAN.

Read more @ http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/01/22/go-the-extra-mile-to-teach-english-teachers-urged/